The Negro Speaks of Rivers

"The Negro Speaks of Rivers" is a song by Howard Swanson setting a poem of Langston Hughes. This song launched Howard Swanson's musical career after Marian Anderson sang this song on a recital in 1949. Langston Hughes' poem was first published in June of 1921 in Crisis, the magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP.

Howard Swanson and Langston Hughes were friends and collaborators during the Harlem Renaissance.

Date: 1942Composer: Howard SwansonText: Langston Hughes

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The Negro Speaks of Rivers
by Langston Hughes

I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy
bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

Sheet Music

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